Vigil outside county jail protests treatment of migrants

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    Virginia Irvine of Northampton holds a sign that reads "cafe free children" at a vigil held on Greenfield's town common Friday night protesting the way immigrant children are treated, July 12, 2019. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • Protestors hold signs at a vigil on Greenfield's town common Friday decrying the way undocumented immigrant children have been treated, July 12, 2019. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • Protestors hold signs at a vigil on Greenfield's town common Friday decrying the way undocumented immigrant children have been treated, July 12, 2019. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • Audrey Bernstein of Northampton looks on as her daughter, Rachel Coles of Hawaii draws a sign on Greenfield’s town common, Friday. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Protesters cover the sidewalk outside the Franklin County House of Correction Friday afternoon to protest the treatment of immigrant children in I.C.E. custody.

  • Sue Cichowski, left, and Nikolas Letendre-Cahillane, right, hold signs calling to “Close The Camps” and “Abolish I.C.E.” as part of the protest held Friday Afternoon outside the Franklin County House of Correction. Staff Photo/Zack DeLuca

  • Jayme Winell, left, and Lauren Burke, right, greet the crowd as I.C.E. protesters gather outside the Franklin County House of Correction on Friday afternoon. —Staff Photo / Zack DeLua

Staff Writer
Published: 7/12/2019 11:40:09 PM
Modified: 7/12/2019 11:39:57 PM

GREENFIELD — As part of a national movement, hundreds of local residents gathered outside the Franklin County House of Correction’s gates Friday afternoon in protest of the Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.).

Cars honked to the crowd in passing as Lauren Burke, an award-winning social entrepreneur and immigration attorney, addressed their concerns about the poor treatment of immigrants in detention.

“We stand today in solidarity with the more than 30 migrant humans inside this detention center, one of four in western Massachusetts housing immigrants found by I.C.E.,” Burke said. “We stand with the more than 52,000 immigrants in federal custody right now and the untold thousands who are forced into detention camps along our borders … you stand here because of the stories you have seen in the news lately.”

The Greenfield rally was organized in part by the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and held in conjunction with the advocacy group Lights for Liberty’s nationwide call to action. Elsewhere, more than 500 groups held similar events on Friday including rallies in Homestead, FL and El Paso, TX, according to a press statement from the center. The nationwide events were organized “to call for an end to the inhumane conditions faced by immigrants at camps and detention centers across the U.S.”

The jail on Elm Street was selected as a gathering place for the protest because, according to the statement, “31 undocumented immigrants are being held in detention under a long-standing contract (I.C.E.).”

Attempts to reach Sheriff Christopher Donelan for comment were unsuccessful before press time.

“Children and parents are separated and isolated in I.C.E. camps,” said Hodaliz Borrayes, the event’s organizer, in a statement. “Every time they are separated, these families risk gaining a trauma called Separation Anxiety Disorder.” Borrayes continued, saying that “The trauma can last long after families are reunited. ... Our government is creating this system that forces immigrants to live in trauma. We as a community have the right to demand what we want and what is right.”

Many members of the community seemed to share Borrayes sentiments. Nearly everyone in attendance brandished a sign. One read “Close the camps” while another asked, “What kind of country puts children in cages?”

The musical group Moonlight and Morning Star performed as co-organizer Jayme Winell greeted those in attendance and many others who were still arriving.

“We have some action steps we can take right here-right now...but this is a marathon not a sprint,” said Winell before she handed the mic over to Burke.

Burke says she spent most of 2017 — in the wake of the presidential election — traveling the country providing free legal services to immigrants and their communities out of a van. She spoke of her own heritage as a descendent of Italian immigrants and refugees of the Irish potato famine.

“I am an immigration attorney who has represented more than 500 indivudals in our immigration courts and within our immigration system,” said Burke. “I have heard thousands of stories of hope and resilience, of bravery and strength, from more than 32 countries around this world.”

According to Burke, nearly a dozen children have died in I.C.E. detention since December and many others have been subjected to abuse while in custody.

Following the rally at the Franklin County House of Correction, the protest continued well after 7 p.m. on Greenfield’s town common with a vigil that was organized by the local chapter of Lights for Liberty.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com
or 413-772-2016 ext. 264.


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